VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks blew a third-period lead Wednesday, but the meltdown gave Ryan Kesler the opportunity to accomplish something that’s eluded him in the NHL.
Kesler scored in overtime to complete his first career hat trick as the Canucks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2.
“It just felt good to get it off my back” said Kesler, who had a dozen two-goal games prior to Wednesday. “I was sniffing for a while to get that third (goal in a game), not only this year but last year.”
Kesler completed hat-trick on the power play at 3:30 of the extra period, taking a saucer pass from Daniel Sedin on a 2-on-1 and firing a shot over sprawling Columbus goaltender Mathieu Garon.
“It’s good to see (Kesler) get that third one,” said Henrik Sedin, who also assisted on the winner. “He deserved the hat trick the way he played.”
The Blue Jackets (16-11-3) found themselves a man short in overtime after Jan Hejda took a boarding penalty.
“It was a great play by Hank and Danny,” said Kesler. “For me, it was one of those goals where I just had to put it on net and bury it. I was just on the finishing end of it.”
The Canucks (17-8-4) posted their seventh win in nine games and have lost only once in regulation time since Nov. 21.
“For our team, it was a great way to finish the game,” said Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault. “And, on a personal note, obviously, (Kesler) had one of his best games as a Canuck.”
Derick Brassard and Tom Sestito, with his first NHL goal, replied for the Blue Jackets in regulation, who despite suffering their fifth straight road loss, are still off to their best start in club history.
“(Kesler) certainly was the best player on the ice,” said Columbus head coach Scott Arniel. “I know he’s having a great year and sometimes he gets overshadowed by other players on the team, but his speed and his skill are real dangerous.”
Columbus dominated for stretches but couldn’t solve Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo, who finished with 28 saves.
“It’s hard in overtime like that, 4-on-3 against these guys,” said Garon. “There is a lot of skills on the ice and they are just everywhere. These guys are really good, they shoot the puck, they find each other and that’s what happened on the goal.”
Kesler scored on his final three shots of the game after Garon robben the Canucks centre on a breakaway in the first.
“I just felt good the whole game,” said Kesler. “Obviously, if I had that chance again, I’d probably do something differently.”
Kesler’s first goal came as he converted a give-and-go with Alex Edler following a turnover near the Columbus blue-line with 22.9 seconds left in the first to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead.
Garon didn’t see much action in the second as the Canucks managed only one shot before Brassard tied it for Columbus at 9:02, fooling Luongo with a wrist shot to the short side on a 2-on-1.
Columbus carried the play in the middle period, but just 1:48 later, Kesler restored the Canucks’ lead as Blue Jackets defenceman Rostislav Klesla overskated a bouncing puck in front of Garon.
After the goal, Columbus continued to control the play, but couldn’t solve Luongo, who stopped Kristian Huselius from the slot and gloved a Kris Russell slapshot from the point.
After Blue Jackets winger Jakub Voracek backhanded the puck off the crossbar early in the third, Sestito tied it 2-2 at 7:34, deflecting Mike Commodore’s shot on a power play.
“It’s my first one and it feels a little better that it’s one to help the team and not when we’re winning or losing 5-1,” said Sestito.
Kesler now has five goals and two assists in the past four games. He’s remained consistent offensively even though linemate Mason Raymond is out with a hand injury suffered three games ago.
“Whoever I play him with, obviously, they become real good players,” said Vigneault. “That’s his job—and he’s doing it.”
Notes: Both clubs recorded 30 shots. … Vancouver was 1-for-4 on the power-play, while Columbus went 1-for-3. … The Blue Jackets lost Dorsett to an unknown injury in the second period … Throughout the game, the Canucks saluted the greatest Swedish players in their history. Four of Vancouver’s all-time top scorers are Swedes, including overall leader Markus Naslund (756 points). … Klesla played his 500th career NHL game. All have come with the Blue Jackets. … Huselius returned to the Columbus lineup after missing 22 games with a lower-body injury.